Friday, October 22, 2010, 08:35 am PT (11:35 am ET)
AT&T making moves to 'reduce reliance' on Apple's iPhoneAT&T will be the only U.S. wireless carrier to offer smartphones with every major operating system this holiday season, as the company attempts to diversify its portfolio beyond the iPhone, which is rumored to arrive on rival carrier Verizon's network in early 2011.
The exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the U.S. is adding new handsets running operating systems from Apple's rivals, including Google Android and Microsoft Windows 7. It is also retraining staff in its stores to sell the new non-Apple smartphones for the holiday season, according to Bloomberg.
"AT&T Inc., facing the possible loss of its hold on the iPhone, is adding handsets at an accelerating clip and retraining store staff to help reduce reliance on its top-selling smartphone during the holidays," author Greg Bensinger wrote.
AT&T also touted during its quarterly earnings call this week that more than half of its new customers chose a phone other than the iPhone. The addition of new phones running Windows Phone 7 and Google Android comes as rumors suggest AT&T will lose its exclusive iPhone deal in early 2011, and Apple's handset will become available on Verizon.
Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal lent strong support to those rumors, claiming that Apple plans to begin mass production of a new CDMA, Verizon-compatible iPhone by the end of 2010. Apple and Verizon also recently announced the wireless carrier will sell the iPad, bundled with a MiFi portable 3G hotspot, in its retail stores beginning later this month.
Jeff Bradley, AT&T devices senior vice president, told Bloomberg that his company's changes are not meant to protect against the end of iPhone exclusivity. He said the carrier plans to carry the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," even after exclusivity expires, though he didn't say when that would happen.
AT&T's stores will reportedly have a "cleaner" look for the holidays, as the carrier is retraining about 25,000 salespeople on the new lineup of phones it will carry this fall. The carrier will also run a promotion among salespeople, offering them a free handset if they can be among the first few thousand to sell four of the latest models.
AT&T has been the exclusive carrier of the iPhone since the handset first launched in 2007. Since then, it has been a large part of the company's success.
This week, AT&T revealed it sold 5.2 million iPhones in the last quarter, and 1.25 million of those were new customers. That's just less than half of the total 2.6 million new customers AT&T added during the three-month period.
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